Systems Thinking (in Practice) Beyond Text Book Systems Thinking

Reynolds, Martin (2020). Systems Thinking (in Practice) Beyond Text Book Systems Thinking. [Guest Lecture] University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa.


Guest Lecture presentation through webinar for University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa. Invitation and introduction to the webinar through auspices of Systems Thinking Africa (Director: Samuel Njenga)

The webinar introduces the launch of a postgraduate (Level 7) Systems Thinking Practitioner Apprenticeship (STP-A), approved by the UK Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education in 2019. STP-A marks a landmark for systems thinking in practice through providing official professional recognition for the role of a Systems Thinking Practitioner (STP). Approval of the Apprenticeship arose from a series of action research projects that began in 2014 lead by Martin Reynolds along with colleagues including Ray Ison, Rupesh Shah and Helen Wilding through the Applied Systems Thinking in Practice (ASTiP) group at The Open University (UK). Drawing on experiential work from a postgraduate program in Systems Thinking in Practice (STiP) - part-time open-supported distance learning suite of qualifications at the OU - the presentation tracks the opportunity for systems thinking practitioners to follow a post-normal trajectory of systems thinking. This shifts attention from a conventionally academic viewing of systems practice as following three waves or ‘paradigms’ of thinking – hard (functionalist), soft (interpretivist), and critical (emancipatory) – as seen in most social science disciplines. Instead, systems thinking in practice is regarded as being more liberated enabling practitioners to draw on different traditions of expertise and practice in cultivating a more tailored user-informed capability. Rather than seeing systems thinking practitioners as conforming to pre-set rigid competency framework of professional practice, adopting a conventional contingency approach to using methods, there is an opportunity for the STP Apprenticeship curriculum to adopt more a capabilities approach to systems thinking in practice based on ideas of bricolage.

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